Working a Career Fair
by Rachel Kaschner | October 6, 2008
Career fairs can be pretty intimidating...hundreds of companies, even more students, and those distracting freebies. I'm going to put myself in your shoes and share how I would maximize my results for success...
I've arrived early to beat the rush and get more face time with recruiters. (It is usually busiest during lunch time, and it's hard to have a real conversation when lines start forming.) I'm dressed in pressed business attire (although business casual would be fine too). I'm armed with resumes, reference pages, my unofficial transcripts (advising report) and a portfolio (for jotting notes and storing business cards). I've left my coat and book bag at coat check and my cell phone is turned off.
I've identified my top priority companies that I'd like to talk to. I've researched what products or services they provide and determined why I'm interested in their specific company. I've thought about commonly asked interview questions and know how I would answer them. I know where their company booths are located because I reviewed the floor plan in the program ahead of time. I'm going into this with the attitude that I am being interviewed. This means being enthusiastic, confident, and informed.
As I walk through the display area, I am alone (walking around with friends is not recommended-companies want to learn about me-not who I hang out with) and I take my time. Before approaching them, I go over any last minute rehearsal in my head. Then I introduce myself with a firm handshake and give my 30 second introductory pitch (see previous blog entry if you are unfamiliar with this). I hand the recruiter my resume and ask at least one question to show my interest in that company. I listen earnestly to their responses and express interest. After talking with the recruiter, I ask if the company is scheduling interviews for tomorrow or later in the quarter and what is the best way for me to apply for the job I am interested in. If they are doing next day interviews, I write down (maybe on back of program), the company name, interview location, and time for next day interviews. Finally I ask for a business card. (Notice I've avoided grabbing the freebies...although it's okay to take a few, you don't want recruiters to think that's your primary objective.)
After walking away from the booth, I like to jot notes down about the discussion I had with the recruiter, so that when I write a thank you note, I can reference specific things we talked about. This will help the recruiter remember me and set me apart from the numerous students they met at EXPO. I finish visiting my priority companies...if there are any who caught my eye at the fair and whose website I didn't review beforehand...I get a sense of what this company's products or services are while waiting in line to talk with them.
Once the fair is over, I follow the employers' instructions on how to apply for opportunities with their company. I then write thank you letters reiterating my interest in the company/position and add things that might improve my candidacy that wasn't mentioned during our talk.
"The ladder of success is best climbed by stepping on the rungs of opportunity."